Honors Project Summaries, 2015-2016

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Anthropology

Writer: Katherine Uram
Faculty Advisor: Carla Daughtry
Topic: Globilization, Social Positioning, and Hybridity of Women Artisans' Batik Handicraft in Guizhan, China
Summary:

 

Biology

Writer: Laura Deneckere
Faculty Advisor: Judith Humphries
Topic: Characterization of nuclear factor-kappa B binding sites in the freshwater snail, Biomphalaria glabrata.
Summary:

Biomphalaria glabrata is an intermediate host for the trematode Schistosoma mansoni, which causes the human disease schistosomiasis. Many studies have focused on the immune responses of the snail-schistosome system. Recent findings have shown that the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) pathway can regulate the immune response, partly through the Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathway. However, not much is known about the specific molecular mechanisms regulating these responses. Both NF-κB and TLR homologues have recently been found in the snail and so it is of great interest to determine if NF-kB activation regulates TLR gene expression. We have used bioinformatics to identify putative κB sites upstream of 12 immune-related genes involved in the TLR-NFκB pathway within B. glabrata. In order to determine if the snail’s NF-κB proteins are capable of regulating gene expression, electrophoretic mobility shift assays are being used to characterize the binding sites. The identification of putative κB sites is essential for advancing our understanding of the TLR mediated F-κB pathway in B. glabrata. However, further studies are needed to confirm that NF-κB can regulate immune responses in the snail.

Biology

Writer: Zabdiel Ek-Vazquez
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth De Stasio
Topic: The Role of daf-19 in Non-Ciliated Neurons
How is Neural Development Regulated by Different daf-19 isoforms?
Summary:

A degenerative disease-like phenotype, specifically reduction in synaptic protein levels in adult worms, is correlated with loss-of-function of the only RFX transcription factor gene, daf-19, in C. elegans. This gene encodes four known transcription factor isoforms, two of which are correlated with particular functions. The DAF-19C isoform activates genes responsible for cilia development, while DAF-19M is needed for cilia specification in males. A comparison of the transcriptome of daf-19 null and isogenic wild type adult worms suggests both positive and negative regulation of gene expression is correlated with the presence of DAF-19 proteins. We have assessed DAF-19 regulation of gene expression using transcriptional fusion constructs of putative target genes in daf-19 wild type and mutant worms. We have found that at least three genes are repressed by the DAF-19 transcription factor in particular nerve cells. In one case, differential gene expression is seen in sensory neurons while differential expression of two other genes is limited to interneurons. Interestingly, none of these genes have been shown to contain an X-box, the cis-acting sequence used to activate genes involved in cilia formation. These data suggest that DAF-19 has an additional role beyond that of sensory neuron development and specification. Because the daf-19 gene produces at least four related proteins, further experimentation is required to determine which DAF-19 isoform(s) are responsible for repression of gene expression. We are currently using new alleles of daf-19 to whether the largest DAF-19 proteins, DAF-19A/B have a role in repressing target gene expression

Biology

Writer: Katherine Mueller
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth De Stasio
Topic: Activation of Target Gene Expression in Neurons  by the C. elegans RFX Transcription Factor, DAF-19
Summary:

DAF-19, the only RFX transcription factor found in C. elegans, is required for the formation of neuronal sensory cilia. Four isoforms of the DAF-19 protein have been reported, and the m86 nonsense (null) mutation affecting all four isoforms has been shown to prevent cilia formation. Transcriptome analyses employing microarrays of L1 and adult stage worms were completed using RNA from daf-19(m86) worms and an isogenic wild type strain to identify additional putative DAF-19 target genes. Using transcriptional fusions with GFP, we compared the expression patterns of several potential gene targets using fluorescence confocal microscopy.  Expression patterns were characterized in various genetic backgrounds in order to determine isoform-specific expression patterns.  Additionally, we completed rescue experiments using cDNAs encoding specific DAF-19 isoforms in a daf-19 null genetic background. Our data indicate that several new genes are activated by DAF-19 in both ciliated and non-ciliated neurons.  We are currently developing isoform-specific CRISPR/Cas9 mutants to further explore the precise mechanisms by which different DAF-19 isoforms regulate their target genes.

Biology

Writer: Loraina Stinson
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth De Stasio
Topic: Assessment of DAF-19 Related Behavioral Defects
Summary:

The daf-19 gene encodes the only RFX transcription factors in C. elegans, producing at least four related protein isoforms, one of which, DAF-19C, is responsible for ciliogenesis. Previous work by Senti and Swoboda, 2008 demonstrated that adult worms deficient in all four DAF-19 proteins have extremely aberrant dwelling and roaming behavior on food.  Most intriguingly the addition of cDNA encoding the DAF-19C isoform restores cilia formation, but does not fully restore dwelling and roaming behavior.  We are suggesting that additional neuron functions are needed to properly execute behaviors which require the activity of DAF-19 isoforms. We have developed a related assay that mimics a patchy food environment to further probe worm foraging behavior. We are assessing the behavior of worms lacking all isoforms of DAF-19 as well as those containing mutant alleles that affect only the larger isoforms of DAF-19 to determine whether these isoforms play a role in nervous system function and worm behavior.

Economics

Writer: Timothy Elliot Dahlstrom
Faculty Advisor: Adam Galambos
Topic: Development of Utility Theory and Utility Paradoxes
Summary:

Since 1944 there have been many developments in Expected Utility Theory.  In order to explain agent behavior economists have created increasingly broad and complex versions of utility theory.  This paper takes many of those models that have been developed and explains their strengths and weaknesses.  This paper seeks to describe various utility models, how those models act in lottery and ambiguous situations.  This paper also discusses how these models use variations on axioms and equations to solve the Ellsberg and Allais paradoxes.  In conjunction this paper attempts to communicate the historical development of utility models, and provide insight as to why economists should change their views on how utility models have developed.

 

Economics

Writer: Alissa Heiring
Faculty Advisor: Merton Finkler
Topic: Increasing Access to Potable Water: A Question of Economics and Governance in Bo District, Sierra Leone
Summary:

 

Economics

Writer: Perrin Tourangeau
Faculty Advisor: David Gerard, Jonathan Lhost
Topic: Why Forests Fail: Exploring the Relationship Between Institutions and Forest Management Practices in Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Summary:

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola. Since the 1950s, the two nations have experienced divergent economic and environmental trajectories. While both nations were completely forested at one time, the Dominican Republic currently retains about 28% of its original forest cover, while Haiti only retains 1% (Diamond, 2005). Based on economic literature, this difference in forest cover across the two countries might be explained by the relationship between economic and political institutions and forest management practices (Deacon and Bohn, 2000), (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012). In this study, I investigate how political and economic institutions have affected the maintenance of forest cover in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in hopes of uncovering the role in which property rights institutions either promote or hamper the sustainable use of forest stocks across countries. In order to fully explore this relationship between institutions and forest management, I also attempt to identify the potential determinants of institutional quality in the two countries. In my comparison of forest management practices between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I use observations provided qualitative secondary sources as well as forest cover statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations over the 1948-2015 period. I argue that poverty, high population, and extractive and unstable institutions, contributed to high forest extraction rates in Haiti, while the Dominican Republic’s extractive institutions, higher rates of economic development, and lower population, paired with a powerful political figure with environmental motives, allowed for its more sustainable forest management practices. I also find that the differences in colonial origin as well as in the pressure received from outside political players such as the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may have caused differences in the quality of Haiti and the Dominican Republic’s political and economic institutions.

 

Economics

Writer: Mishal Ayaz
Faculty Advisor: Adam Galambos
Topic: A Game Theoretic Analysis of International Justice Disputes
Summary:

This paper creates a working model for the international justice dispute resolution process, limiting its scope to those disputes that fall under the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction post 1986. The game can be formed in four ways: perfect information, incomplete information, no information, and partial information. The first three forms of the game are solved and discussed in this paper.

 

English

Writer: Terese Swords
Faculty Advisor: Celia Barnes
Topic: Daniel Defoe's Literary Economies
Summary:

 

 

Ethnic Studies

Writer: Makenzie Nolan
Faculty Advisors: Carla Doughrty, Brigetta Miller
Topic: The Role of Women and Motherhood in Native American Ojibwe Culture
Summary:

Focusing on the role of motherhood in Native American Ojibwe culture, my research will draw from personal narratives in order to capture women’s experiences; intersecting with race and gender. The purpose of my research is to explore how Native American women’s determination to maintain their own culture and cultural identity, has helped them address motherhood in American society.

I hope to not only uncover the reservoirs of strength in women’s lives, but also attempt to depict these women not as victims- but in a celebratory perspective that focuses on women’s strength as mothers. In order to complete my research, I will be conducting face-to-face interviews with mothers and grandmothers, from within the Ojibwe tribal community in Minnesota.

 

Geology

Writer: Brian De Corte
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Knudson, Marcia Bjornerud
Topic: Uranium Isotope Ratios in Modern and Precambrian Soil
Summary:

Uranium isotopes (δ238U values) are an emerging paleoredox proxy that can help to better understand the redox evolution of Earth’s surface environment. Recently, uranium isotopes have been used to reconstruct ocean and atmospheric redox conditions. However, to date, there have not been studies on paleosols, despite that paleosols are, arguably better suited to directly tracking the redox conditions of the atmosphere. Here we compare U isotope data from a broad range of modern soils to a temporally and geographically expansive suite of paleosols to better constrain atmospheric oxygen levels during the Precambrian. U isotope measurements from both modern soils and paleosols are broadly centered around mean crustal δ238U values with some variation. Notably, there are δ238U fractionations in paleosol samples as early as 3.0 Ga. The modern soil and paleosol δ238U records are generally consistent with modern, crustal riverine δ238U values which suggests constant δ238U input into the oceans throughout Earth’s history.  If δ238U input into the oceans has been constant over time, δ238U values from marine sediments must record marine processes. Therefore, our data strongly reaffirm recent U isotope work from marine sediments and presents a new paleosol δ238U record suggesting an early rise of biological oxygen production before 3.0 Ga.

 

German

Writer: Sarah Bonoff
Faculty Advisor: Brent Peterson
Topic: Blitz aus heiterm Himmel: Doppelgänger and the Illusion of Gender Equality in the GDR
Summary:

The anthology Blitz aus heiterm Himmel was published in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1975. It includes short stories written by both men and women in which the protagonist undergoes a miraculous gender change of sorts. While the various authors take different approaches to the concept of gender, there are themes that tie the stories together. In the stories that have been analyzed, many focus on either the portrayal of men and the role of masculinity, or the discourse of women in science. I instead chose focus on and analyze three of these short stories (“Selbstversuch: Traktat zu einem Protokoll”, “Der Gute Botschaft der Valeska in 73 Strophen”1  and “Das Rübenfest“) using the conventions of the horror genre.  I discuss the lack of a horror genre in general in the GDR, and also conclude that the unrealized promise of gender equality in the GDR lead to the manifestation of doppelgänger, witches, and other horror figures in these short stories.

1“Der Gute Botschaft der Valeska in 73 Strophen” was not originally published in Blitz aus heiterm Himmel, but was published in the West German version, Geschlechtertausch: Drei Geschichten über die Umwandlung der Verhältnisse.

 

Government

Writer: Sari Hoffman-Dachelet
Faculty Advisor: Jason Brozek
Topic: Who Cares What They're Saying: Participation in International Development Analysis
Summary:

Participatory methods are the established methodology in international aid and development. Within this paradigm things that are more participatory are thought of as being more impactful, however, the actual success or failure of any given international project is measured by its evaluation team. These evaluations are vitally important in regards to funding, both for future programs and continuing programs, and in shaping the methodology of future programs. These evaluations are also non-participatory. Do the evaluations impact the lives of participants and how do they reflect “good” development? The measures of impact differ from the measures of success, this project looks at how they diverge, and what that could mean for these international projects.

 

Government

Writer: Amaan Naseer Khan
Faculty Advisors: Steven Wulf
Topic: "Pakistan Ka Matlab Kya?": The Islamic Republic's Earliest Search for Identity Through an Objectives Resolution
Summary:  

 

Government

Writer: Vahaken Mouradian
Faculty Advisors: Steven Wulf, Ameya Balsekar
Topic: The Case for National Culture
Summary: The rise of parochialist (radical, nationalist-populist) political parties has become a pan-European phenomenon in recent years. As opposed to conventional, mainly economic, explanations for their electoral successes, I show that their trademark anti-immigrant and anti-EU platforms express a larger concern for cultural erosion which voters relate to. I argue that this concern is justified because a healthy, common, national culture is both inherently and instrumentally valuable. I also provide guidelines for policy reforms that would allow encumbent European administrations to accommodate the need for a sense of national identity, and to co-opt parochialist parties.

Government

Writer: Jusuf Sarancic
Faculty Advisor: Ameya Balsekar
Topic: Is Consociationalism Bad for Reconcilation?: A Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovnia
Summary:

 

 

Government

Writer: Nils Fabian Sivnert
Faculty Advisor: Ameya Balsekar
Topic: The Devil is in the Details: Explaining the Electoral Success of the Sweden Democrats
Summary:

Why do radical right parties achieve electoral success? Although radical right parties are far from a new phenomenon in modern politics, it nonetheless remains difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons behind their electoral success. Therefore, to provide greater insight to the success of radical right parties this study investigates the Sweden Democrats, a radical right party in Sweden and their recent electoral success. According to the literature on the radical right, there are two distinct hypotheses that emerge to explain their electoral success. One argues for continued, and consistent emphasize on the signature ideological issue, while the other suggests moderation as a preferable strategy in order to achieve electoral success.
This project uses a form of comment frequency analysis of 11 of the Sweden Democrats’ annual speeches to evaluate whether and when they emphasize or moderate on their signature issues of anti-Islam and anti-immigration. This study suggests that the Sweden democrats are, counter-intuitively, both moderating and emphasizing their core ideology, depending upon the audience being addressed. The findings help to reconcile and add nuance to the existing literature on the rise of the radical right more generally and the Sweden democrats in particular.

 

 

History

Writer: Hannah Jeruc
Faculty Advisor: Monica Rico
Topic: To Whom does the Body of the Dead Soldier Belong?: An Examination of British Imperial Strategy and the Making and Meaning of World War I Memorials
Summary: In 1915, one year into World War I, Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware founded the Imperial War Graves Commission, the official body responsible for locating, identifying and burying the dead British and Commonwealth soldiers. By the end of the war, the British had lost about one million troops, and for the next 20 years, the Commission would work diligently to create 970 cemeteries, 600,000 graves and 18 larger memorials to commemorate the British losses on the Western Front. However, the significance of the British WWI memorialization process is about more than the Empire's architectural achievements, but rather, the story the architecture tells about a great imperial power struggling to maintain its image in the aftermath of a devastating war and on the brink of a new age of imperial decline. This essay investigates how the British WWI memorials reflect postwar political attitudes, changes and motivations and argues that the Imperial War Graves Commission and its supporters within the British government used the memorialization process as a means to project a strengthened, unified and internationally superior image of postwar imperial Britain. The argument draws on analyses of postwar British politics, the influence of the historical relationship between the Empire and Christianity, the symbolism of the memorials and cemeteries, the process of creating the memorials and cemeteries, and the ensuing public debate over the Commission's decision to standardize and control the burying and commemorating of soldiers' bodies. Ultimately, the essay begs the question, to whom does the body of the dead soldier belong?

 

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